Thursday, June 28, 2007

House of Aviance, or Bedtime Stories

What is it about summer here? I just can't believe how this city comes alive with people walking, jogging and biking everywhere, festival on top of festival, ballgames, barbeques, parties, patios, porches, parks and promenades. It's not the same city it was just three months ago.

The same appears to be true for things to do in the gay community. After a winter of hitting the same old spots with only an intermittent party or special event to spice things up, there is a sudden deluge of options.

This Saturday is a good example. Not only is the ABBA show at Pine Knob/DTE, but Kevin Aviance is performing at
Menjo's. It's like a gay Sophie's Choice. Except of course you win either way. Which I guess would be the gay part of that.

Kevin Aviance is an amazing performer, kind of drag, kind of not. He describes himself as an "entity" on his website. He's been a fixture performing in NYC for years, in particularly known for his time at Twilo and The Roxy. He and I actually go way back. Not as friends really, but friends of friends. Oh, the stories I could tell. And will.

I met my first serious boyfriend (we'll call him Tad Hamilton) back in the little club world of 1991 Washington, DC. He was in school at the time, but had been a fixture on the club scene for a while and his little group was the
House of Aviance, of which Kevin was a member. I remember so well the romantic night when we met dancing to Jean-Philippe Aviance's mix of "Work this Pussy." I met Kevin through Tad.

At the time my roommate and I lived right in the heart of the Dupont Circle gayborhood at 17th & P, and it turned out Kevin moved into a flat in the townhouse next door. He lived with Tatia, a chubby Asian club girl from a good family in McLean, VA, who was plying her trade as a call girl, "the pearl of the orient," known for her large-ish breasts. My roommate, a Georgetown School of Foreign Service graduate student seeking popularity, fell in with that whole clubby group when he started dating one of those boys. It was a watershed moment the day I got home from work and walked into the apartment to see a drag queen (Kevin), a call girl (Tatia), a pimp, a drug dealer and a credit card scam artist all hanging out with my roommate in the living room. The drag part I liked, obviously, but the rest was the beginning of the end of that particular living situation, as you might imagine.

My normally subdued roommate hit a rough patch later when he found out his boyfriend had been cheating on him the whole time they were going out (hasn't that happened to us all at some point?) and a series of extraordinarily dramatic suicide attempts ensued. One time, the roommate drank a bunch of booze and took a bunch of pills, and then decided to seal the deal by using Saran Wrap to seal off our galley kitchen and turning on the oven with the door open. Only one problem: it was an electric oven.

Kevin Aviance was there to save the day anyway! He knew the roommate was home and distraught and couldn't reach him on the phone, so he hopped the fence from his backyard into ours, climbed up the fire escape in his platform boots and kicked in the bedroom window a/c unit! He tore down the hermetic seal on the kitchen and got our boy up and moving around, saving him from potential death (but not future embarrassment about the oven thing).

Coming to a fire escape near you.

Later, when Tad had replaced the roommate in the apartment, I had a visit from an ex-girlfriend (look, I was young). She drove down to visit me while her parents toured the city. We had the full coming-out talk (which she had already guessed, having seen the way Tad and I bickered. We were young.) and it was a great visit. On the morning she left she was walking down the steps of my building with her parents, middle-aged working class folks from Macomb County, just as Kevin Aviance was returning home from a night out. He sauntered down the street in full make-up with a bandeau top, cha-cha heels and huge hoop earrings, looking like a gold lamé Carmen Miranda (with a bald pate instead of a fruit hat). I cringed as I thought about what horrible timing this was, until I found out later my friend's dad just turned to her after Kevin walked by and said "I love this city."

Kevin left DC a little after that, and later started making a name for himself. There's Kevin in the Madonna "Secret" video ... there's his first big club hit "Cunty (The Feeling)." I ran into him once at The Roxy (the same night Madonna walked right past me there - chyeah!) and another time for a big performance at the (then new, now closed) Chelsea bar
xl. He's scored a bunch of other dance hits on the Billboard charts, been on television, and survived a nasty gay-bashing in NYC's East Village a year ago.

Back in the saddle after the gay bashing. NYC Pride 2006.

Really, he's become a bit of a legend, and this Saturday is a great opportunity to see him get his freak on. Go now, so in fifteen years you can be like me, telling stories of the old days like you are your own grandpa.

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